A little over a year ago, parent/child border separation came to light in the United States. After the Trump administration issued a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry into the United States, children began being separated from their parents at the border of the U.S. and Mexico.
Children separated from their parents are going without basic human necessities and safe places to sleep, while being separated from their parents. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, last month 144,278 migrants were held — of those, 11,507 were unaccompanied children.
Now, over a year later, it is still a pressing issue, and the treatment and quality of life of children is in question because of how the government is handling the issue. A few weeks ago, New York Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram Live: “The United States is running concentration camps at our southern border, and that is exactly what they are.” We also learned that the administration plans on detaining more migrants at a military base that was a former Japanese internment camp during World War II.
This is wrong on every level. And, we don’t believe that this is a partisan issue — we believe that this is an issue of morality. We are taking a stance and holding our government accountable, and this is how you can too:
1. Don’t send stuff
As parents, hearing accounts of these children being detained at the border without access to beds or basic hygiene is gutting – especially after knowing that these children are kept there in unsanitary and unsafe conditions without any parent or guardian around to care for them.
Last week, we read about a U.S. attorney arguing in court that the government should not be required to provide migrant children detained in Border Patrol facilities toothbrushes, soap, showers, or a safe sleeping environment. This bleak image is burned on to many of our brains, consuming our thoughts, and creating pits in our stomachs at the very thought: what if this was our kids? As the daughter of immigrants and the mother of two boys with sweet brown skin, I feel this immensely.
Reports this week of donations being turned away at Border Patrol facilities angered many – myself included. But, as much as we want to gather all of the soap, diapers, shampoo, and toothpaste and provide for these children’s health and hygiene in the way we do for our own, sending things won’t work this time. As noted in the Chicago Tribune, the government cannot accept goods, money, or services through private donations – the job of Congress is to allocate money for these sorts of things.
Obviously, we all feel frustrated that the government is failing here – but if we want to impact change, we need to go about it properly.
2. Call your representatives – and then call them again
There’s no deep internal satisfaction from making a phone call, but it’s still vital that we do so. Applying political pressure is one of the greatest powers we have as citizens, as lawmakers are bound — at least in part — to their constituents.
So, we need to call our representatives and tell them that these conditions are unacceptable and push them to fix it.
To find your representatives, you can use the House or Senate websites and search using your zip code. You can also use any of these awesome third-party websites that make finding your representatives easy: Call My Congress, Contact in Congress, or Who is My Representative?
5 Calls finds your representatives for you based on your location and also gives you scripts as a base for your phone calls based on the cause you feel strongly about. Their app is the one I use to make my own calls.
If you’re at a loss of what to say, using a base script is super helpful. Try one along the lines of this:
“My name is (your name) and I’m a constituent in (the name of your town or city). I am appalled at the conditions migrant children are facing at Border Patrol facilities in our country. It is completely unacceptable to deny basic sanitary supplies and safe environments to children on our watch. Please work with lawmakers on both sides to immediately correct this grave injustice. I urge you to adequately fund these facilities, set appropriate standards of care, end all family separation, and make sure immigration courts are properly funded to ensure asylum applications to be swiftly processed. You are not doing enough to help these suffering children.”
If you’re leaving a voicemail, be sure to leave your entire street address so your call will be tallied.
And, call every single day.
3. Donate to causes helping on the ground
Many amazing organizations are working hard to put an end to this terrible situation. Which one you choose to support is up to you – but here are a few of the many programs that are doing reputable and important work. All of these groups are fighting for the lives and improved conditions of detained immigrants. They are providing legal services, helping reunite families, fighting the policies that began family separation, and supporting children who are left alone or returned to their home country due to these horrendous immigration policies.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a Texas nonprofit that helps immigrant children, migrant families, and refugees. The group has more than 100 attorneys, legal assistants, and support staff.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been fighting the administration’s family separation policies and advocating for immigrants since separations began.
Families Belong Together is a group effort that “includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families.”
Kids In Need of Defense provides legal services to children and “reintegration support for children returning alone from the U.S. to their home countries.”
Immigrant Families Together is an all-volunteer group that helps asylum seekers with bonds, works to reunite migrant parents with their children, and helps families get established once they’ve been released.
South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) is a joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. ProBAR “is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government.”
4. Use your voice
You know what’s better than you calling your representatives every day and putting your proverbial foot down on this atrocious injustice? Getting all of your friends and family and neighbors and acquaintances and strangers that you see at Target to do the same.
It used to be that we didn’t want to dabble in politics – “I’m not very political,” I’ve heard countless times from friends. But not being political is just another way to say that we don’t really care about the things that may not affect us directly.
I do care, and I know you do too. So, it’s time to get a little uncomfortable, to resist the outward pressure to keep silent, and to stand for something.
Tell your friends you’re talking about this, tell them you’re calling your representatives, and ask them to do the same. If they’ve never called a government representative before, share what you know about scripts and apps that help you do so – help them find their political voice.
Let’s remember that there are many people around the world without access, without a voice, without the privilege that is afforded to us just by being born in this country – we need to speak for them too.
5. Check yourself
As humans, we’re all carrying layers of complexity and mixed feelings about politics, policies, and the human condition. You might not agree with my perspective on border control and immigration; I might not agree with yours.
But, when it comes to this sort of issue – the health, safety, and dignity of innocent young children being held by our government – it’s not a question of party politics or immigration policy. It’s a question of morality.
This means that sometimes, we need to take the time to dig deep and unveil longstanding prejudices and deeply-rooted stereotypes that we may carry within us. It means we have to recognize our privilege — our white privilege, our feminist privilege, our economic privilege, our education privilege, our religious privilege, our privilege in never having to deal with documentation, colonialism, or foreign language or cultural fluency.
We need to make ourselves aware and learn how to translate those privileges into support for people whose struggles we will never entirely understand, but from which we are safely sheltered.
We need to recognize that we have something, many things, to learn. We need to recognize that we don’t know it all. We need to recognize that our pain, our grief, our worries are different from others’ – not less than, but different. We need to recognize the intersectionality involved in racism and feminism and how you can’t stand for one thing without standing for the other.
We need to recognize that many mothers all over the world hold a weight from which we are free.
We need to commit to learn from them and stand with them.